Cooper (History/Louisiana State Univ.; Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era, 2008, etc.) shares his encyclopedic knowledge of the American South and the Civil War as he exposes the players who drew the country into war.
President James Buchanan’s attempts to diffuse the tensions only postponed a crisis. After South Carolina’s secession, he concluded a gentlemen’s agreement with Gov. Francis Pickens not to reinforce Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor as long as there was no interference. Though historians often claim that slavery was not the true cause of the war, the Southern states demanded their right to reclaim escaped slaves and the rights of the new territories to establish themselves as slave or free. Abraham Lincoln was adamantly against extending the right of slavery in the territories, a true deal breaker for the South. The Republican Party, rejoicing upon gaining the White House in November 1860, was determined to control the South, and they were unwilling to compromise, thwarting every attempt in Congress and using debate and delay methods that are all too familiar today. The Democratic Congress stalwartly attempted to find resolution, with committees in both houses, but again the Republicans used all the instruments of democracy to frustrate success. There were countless attempts to save the Union, including the Crittenden Compromise, the tireless work of William Seward, and the proposal of an amendment to guarantee slavery as it existed. Each had a possibility of success but suffered reverses, delays and impenetrable opposition. Drawing on his wide knowledge of the time period, Cooper clearly enumerates the many ways the Civil War could have been avoided and how many people were clueless as to the real threat, especially Lincoln.
Illuminating Civil War history from an expert in the field.